Not a Replacement

We do not support Replacement Theology.

The Covenant of Moses was unique, a singular example of God choosing one nation as His sole representatives on earth. Their mission was to exhibit His revelation, to breathe life into it by living it. The covenant came with promises that were an extension of Noah’s Covenant, but added in a special status that granted them the best and most direct revelation of God and His ways. This covenant was restricted to this one nation.

The Covenant of Noah was not exclusive. It does offer the same basic promises of shalom, but there is no special family status with God. There is no promise of direct revelation and the bar is higher for maintaining a claim on the promises of shalom.

Israel had a special advantage in that, while their covenant was most assertively conditional, their status with God as family made it much harder for Him to sever ties. Nonetheless, the covenant flatly states those ties could be broken. Israel did so; the final break was rejecting the Messiah. Jesus’ execution symbolized the vast chasm separating them from God, that they had moved so very far away that they were no longer His family.

The New Covenant in Christ was unlike either of the two primary Law Covenants. Instead of an identity that was rooted in this world, the primary source of the Covenant is otherworldly. It has nothing to do with politics in that sense. There can be no “Christian nation;” it perverts the meaning of “Christian.” Instead, there can surely be nations who embrace Noah’s Covenant as their Law, which is subsumed under Christ. But Noah merely manifests Christ; it is not Christ.

So it’s not possible for Christians to replace Israel in terms of earthly status. We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Perception Reborn

What would we need to say about building a Christian culture?

First and foremost, our only reason for living on this earth is to bring glory to God, specifically to the name of Jesus Christ. To put a finer point on it, our purpose in living is to let His glory shine through us. He will glorify Himself one way or another, but we are invited to participate in the process.

A primary means of making His glory visible is our laying claim to the divine heritage of shalom — to live a life that harvests His promised blessings. When we stand in the place where His mercy rains down on us, people are going to notice. They may not understand what they are seeing, but the Holy Spirit will draw their attention to our blessed lives.

Those blessings were promised as a condition for living according to revelation. That brings us to our second point: the otherworldly orientation. We know that revelation comes from Heaven into a fallen world. It’s not that Creation is fallen, but we are. We are born under a veil of moral darkness and cannot see reality, only what our fallen human capabilities tell us is real. Revelation teaches us not to trust what our human perceptions tell us, but to place our faith in what God says is real.

Through revelation we discover that Creation is alive, sentient and serving its designed purpose. We learn to displace our human perception with faith and commune with Creation directly because we commune directly with the Creator. He breathes His Holy Spirit into our dead spirits and we come to Life. We awaken to a far higher awareness that calls us to a Home we’ve never seen. We know we have a mission here to point the way out of the darkness, and when that mission is done, we go to be with Him directly. We find ourselves no longer a part of the shadowy existence into which people are born.

So the third point is that we are overwhelmed with gratitude. The overwhelming sense that we are unworthy, yet declared worthy on grounds we could never comprehend, leads us to humility. At the same time, we have the unshakable confidence of His divine favor. But instead of thinking so highly of our favorable position, we live with a deep sadness that so few in this world seek His favor. They know nothing of our joyful Life. It makes us sober about giddy the same time — sober about human frailty and blindness, but giddy about what we have found in Christ.

It would be easy to get lost in our paradoxes, but we have a vast heritage of what this paradoxical existence should look like in seeking His glory. We are told to examine the record of God’s testimony in Scripture and let His Spirit guide us in breathing life into that ancient record. Granted, it’s no small task to discard everything our world values in its arrogant rejection of God’s truth, but we have the assurance that such effort is rewarded.

I testify to you today that it can be done. We can examine the record of God’s people and see with spiritual eyes what it demands of us today.

We can build a Christian Culture.

A Better Mythology

The word “mythology” is associated with “mythos”:

mythos: 1. Myths collectively; the body of stories associated with a culture, institution or person (see: mythology)

2. A traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people (see: myth)

3. An orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation (see: political orientation, ideology, political theory)

This definition comes compliments of WordWeb (available as a separate application for Windows and is part of the Artha application). In academic terms, we need not limit ourselves to the popular denigration of “mythology” as something inherently false. Of course it’s not fact, but mythology addresses itself to things far above mere fact.

In this sense, it becomes easier to recognize the root mythology of Western Civilization as mostly Germanic. That is, while the Greco-Roman Civilization gave birth to the West, we are not Greco-Roman, but derived from the Germanic nations that conquered the last vestiges of Rome. After the Middle Ages, European (Germanic) scholars began rediscovering the intellectual traditions of Greece and Rome and fed this back into their own intellectual traditions so that whatever it means to be “Western” reached its peak with the Enlightenment period of Western history. Even terms like “Post-modern” refers to a mythos that still stands squarely on the Enlightenment. So if you give time to reading about such things, you become aware of Western Civilization possessing its own mythos separate from the mythos of other cultures.

The primary failing of Western Christianity is a failure to recognize itself as trapped inside of Western Civilization. Further, for all the Bible teaching that warns this is not the same as the Hebrew mythos, the average Western Christian you encounter will still be thoroughly Western first and foremost. Further, they are likely to hold an unspoken assumption that Western is Christian by definition. The acorn of Reformation didn’t fall very far from the Catholic tree. Worst of all, virtually every Western Christian regardless of sectarian background will most certain operate from Western intellectual assumptions that push their doctrine and theology into the realm of “religion” as something that is nothing more than a single thread woven into the tapestry of Western culture, and competing for attention and political dominance.

For all their religious rhetoric, Western Christians demonstrate no effective genuine commitment to things of the Spirit. They have secularized the concept of “spiritual” down to just a more accurate form of intellect. But it requires stepping outside Western mythos to recognize this. As long as you remain within the Western intellectual traditions, you cannot possibly escape the confinement of awareness.

We need desperately to come up with a much better mythos, a better mythology than Western mythology if we are going to restore any part of God’s revelation. You cannot follow Christ and remain Western, because Western is inherently inimical to His teaching. The West didn’t arise from His teaching, but was a nasty perversion of His teaching. Since mythology is just a working model for the mind to organize and implement a faith response within reality, let me suggest something.

Basic assumption: Our current world is not ultimate reality. Indeed, our world is just a confining bubble within the wider Creation. The bubble itself is our fallen awareness. It limits our ability to really understand Creation. Thus, we assert a terminology that says “world” is not just our planet, but a particular level of existence, a fallen plane of existence. It’s a different category from the term “universe,” which implies the full limits of physical existence itself. But Creation is far bigger than either of them, for it includes the Spirit Realm that God created around Himself, housing angels, for example. Again, while we are a part of Creation, we are the only part of Creation that is fallen.

So let’s pick out anthropology and generate an example of a mythology that might bring us closer to God’s revelation. In doing so, we’ll have to counter the prevailing mythos.

At the lowest level of human existence are the mere appetites, a brutish emotion-driven life. Don’t call it “animal” because animals aren’t fallen. It’s merely what unenlightened humans imagine they see in the natural world of animals. Such a life consumes the mind with the tasks of survival out of fear that there is nothing beyond such an existence. There’s a good bit of that in Western mythology.

On a higher level is a mind that also uses formal reasoning processes. While we have a Western cultural myth that envisions rising to a life of pure reason and logic, it is neither possible nor desirable. It is the sum total of what mankind can discern with the full use of all human talent and capability. It denies the fall, so it’s not likely to bring much success, but it also insists that humans can eventually reach some kind of Nirvana by making the most of reason and analysis as the basis for exploring the limits of what man can do with physical reality. It asserts that physical reality is all there is. In Western mythology, “real” means concrete reality; it asserts that humans must use their senses and abstract formal reasoning to understand what’s “real.”

The biblical mythos posits that there is a higher realm available to human awareness, and abstract reason can’t take you there. I call it the “moral realm” without capitalizing because it represents the overlap between the Fallen Realm and the Spirit Realm. The moral realm is not simply a better intellectual clarity and reason, but a humble recognition that reason alone is not enough. This higher awareness is moral in nature, because the biblical mythos denies that morality is nothing more than a cultural construct; it says that morality is fundamental to existence itself. Ultimate truth in this universe is moral truth woven into Creation before we came along. Indeed, moral awareness rests on the assumption that the whole of Creation is alive, sentient and has a will of its own, and that it all reflects the character and moral nature of the Creator.

Thus, in proper mythology, Eden is not Heaven; Eden in the world free of fallen nature. Eden is still there all around us, but we are morally blinded by our hubris — a hubris that rests on denying the Fall. In that sense Eden never was in this world, because this world is defined by fallen human awareness. You have to remove human intellect from the throne and make it serve some higher faculty. That higher moral awareness is what we here at Kiln of the Soul call heart-mind or heart-led living. And this heart-led living prepares us for the final migration of the soul to the Spirit Realm.

There is nothing we can say about the Spirit Realm. While we can use parables to discuss the moral realm of human awareness within the fallen world, even parables fall short of genuine spiritual matters. The best we can do is inculcate a familiarity for the intellect of moral things in parables to indicate something about the nature of genuine spirituality. The whole point is to generate a desire to go there as soon as God lets us come home, and we gain that desire because we start down the path of communion with Creation on a moral level. That’s a taste of communion with the Creator.

You tell me: Do you suppose this alternative mythos makes it easier to share a redemptive life together in the Spirit?

Anti-Activism

It’s a question of dominion. You and I are permitted to take assertive action only within the boundaries of covenant. When it comes to social and political issues, the prevailing applicable covenant is Noah’s. We could easily get lost hashing out the details of the Seven Noahic Laws, but those will not help us because there are prerequisites not stated. The primary issue is that God has wired us to live under Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) feudalism. Without that, you simply cannot have a valid covenant for human organization. Oh, and it requires you reject Western intellectual assumptions.

Inside a covenant community of faith, these changes are pretty easy. Noah’s Covenant isn’t that hard under a presumption of genuine faith. Granted, you could choose a simulacrum of Moses’ Law, so long as you realize that the ritual offerings are swept away by the Cross, aside from offerings given to support worship and leaders. However, it’s largely unnecessary to go that way and Noah is good enough. Instead, we use Moses to inform our understanding of Noah, as Moses has effectively ended, but Noah remains in force so long as there are rainbows. Still, God requires your church be organized like an ANE feudal household. Otherwise, it’s not really a covenant community. Mainstream Western churches are essentially corporations, not spiritual families. It can’t be both. You may well have the latter inside the former, but they aren’t the same body in moral terms because each stands in a different sphere, so you’ll satisfy the requirements for one or the other, but not both.

A covenant presumes voluntary submission. In the Old Testament, children were presumed under parental authority and not free to choose until passing through a collection of moral portals along the way. Parents held total life-n-death prerogatives over their own children. Sometime around age 9 began the transition to social engagement with adult life, culminating in the bar Mitzvah (“son of the Law”) which made them a citizen. (That business of thirty years old had to do with eligibility for community leadership.) At any point after bar-Mitzvah, they could opt out, but only at the price of being regarded socially “dead.” They left the covenant and became aliens, alienated from everyone inside the covenant. Their parents no longer treated them as family, no longer under the protective moral dominion.

In other words, humans must elect to join and actively keep the attachment, or they become nothing more than resident aliens. They still have to meet minimum standards to remain in the physical space of the community, but they don’t actually belong. They still have to recognize they are outsiders with no inherent rights, only a grant of privilege.

A critical element in Old Testament covenant dominion was the actual faith to assert Covenant Law effectively. That is, all covenants depend on the faithfulness of the members. If you don’t have effective control, something is missing inside the covenant community. Effective control presumes you use it in preserving divine justice, AKA shalom AKA social stability under covenant provisions.

So it should be obvious that America, for example, is not a covenant nation. Christians cannot simply assert that it is, or ought to be, or demand that it become so. American Christians generally have no clue what’s required and you can be sure they would reject ANE feudal organization. Even under the most superficial terms, they refuse to obey Noah’s Law. At a minimum, it requires a radical and painful shift from Western thinking to something closer to ANE thinking, and most of them would flatly refuse. They insist on enforcing something closer to the Talmud, with all the goofy legalistic assumptions about reality. Western Christianity is inherently Pharisaical.

Inside the covenant community of faith, we rightly make certain moral demands. Projecting those demands outward onto the secular society is sinful. It’s rather like trying to demand that God offer them His covenant protections without His moral dominion. And in case you missed that, our primary warning to sinners is that their choices are not in their own best interest. They are hurting themselves; it’s the wrong approach to think in terms of how we find things morally offensive. But any change in their choices must come from within. If they don’t accept the whole covenant, they can’t have any part of it. It has nothing to do with their strength to walk away from temptation, but we need to see a genuine desire to walk in divine justice. We all have our moral weaknesses, so humility remains our first impulse. Thus, agitating for piecemeal changes in secular law to more closely match Noah’s Law is evil. While there may be any number of posers pretending to stand for Christian moral values, it’s all or nothing in terms of validity. You can promote the whole package, or you can stop pretending.

And are you willing to make this look like the kind of thing ISIS does by imposing a strict regime by force?

The only valid approach is that a body of people come under conviction and appeal to God for a valid covenant of law. It has to be granted by God as the divine sovereign Lord, a sort of suzerain-vassal treaty. That’s the nature of Law Covenants. His offer stands, but if He has to take us by force, it’s too late. We are obliged to sue for peace before He comes in force. You can choose to enter into covenant individually, but a part of that is recognizing the limits of dominion. Your personal covenant with God is not binding on any other human.

You can be an activist in terms of gentle persuasion; the proper “sell” is telling folks Noah is in their best interest. It’s a loving call to repentance — stop the self-destruction. However, it doesn’t take much to turn that into political agitation and the wrong kind of activism. When we attempt to use any kind of human leverage to drive people into a non-faith decision about morals, they either have to be children under our personal dominion, or it’s the work of Satan. Human politics outside the covenant remain under Satan’s dominion.

Suffering Is Your Ally

From my study notes on 2 Corinthians 1:

It seems unfortunate we translate the Greek word (paraklesis) simply as "comfort" in English, because the typical associations with that word miss the point. The Greek word is both the invocation of someone’s assistance, and the assistance delivered. The Holy Spirit, often called by the related term "Comforter" (paraklete), is One who by His nature draws you up out of yourself. When you call upon God, He calls you to Himself. That primary form of assistance and comfort is to make you see you need not care about the sorrows that clamor your attention. Comfort in tribulation is rising above it mystically. We then offer that same blessing to others, helping them rise above their sorrow by climbing outside themselves. Such consolation is abundant in Christ.

Naturally, as we develop a stronger immunity to worldly sorrows, we should expect those sorrows to abound. What kind of reward is that? Wrong question. God sends more sorrows because that is how He executes His wrath on sin. If this drives you deeper into despair, it is because you cling too much to this life. If it drives you farther from your old self, you should expect more of it as the sorrows succeed in their mission. Our sorrows abound, but our "comfort" abounds the more, as we pull farther and farther away from the false and fallen world around us. Yes, the whole point is to make you even more otherworldly, more "out of touch" from things which only hinder His Kingdom. Paul sincerely hopes they understand this, so the same deep blessings can fall on them.

This is a sample of moral reasoning in the heart. The objective is to become less attached to this world, so suffering and sorrow make sense. They are your friends.

What the Hell?

Some of you get it, but it seems there is enough confusion that I need to restate things for clarity.

I use the English word “Hell.” If you have been paying attention, you’ll notice I use it in the vernacular sense, having a very flexible meaning, and have never bothered with defining it as a religious term.

The image of serving as slaves of Satan applies to this life. It’s the biblical image of ANE feudalism, God’s dominion over Creation. A part of what we need to know about Satan and his activities is derived from this parabolic image of Satan as God’s personal Potiphar, if you will. This has nothing to do with Western Medieval images of torment and Hell; that should have been obvious by my steady denunciation of Western Christianity. People who do not walk by a heart of commitment to God’s revelation are, to varying degrees, slaves of Satan here and now. Their share of the blessings God intended to grant them under covenant are consumed by Satan, and Satan gets none of his own.

But in this image, I include multiple references that Satan is somehow confined to this world, along with all his demons. There is a sense in which that image of slavery is “Hell,” but I don’t recall thinking or writing that Satan was also in charge of Hell as a place beyond death. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Whatever that verse means about “judgment” is the more precise meaning of “Hell.” I have never pretended to offer any firm knowledge of Hell because the Bible avoids a literal description. It’s always been lyrical references to torment of some kind, but that could just as easily mean standing in the Presence of God with full awareness on that higher level that you are not in His favor. That can’t be comfortable, but you can’t possibly presume to describe it in literal terms.

And on top of all that, I believe Hell is not eternal; neither is whatever is signified by the word “Heaven.” Note that Jesus on the Cross referred to it by the Persian word for Paradise (Luke 23:43). Indeed, our current “place of the dead” for everyone, in God’s favor or not, is a temporary state. It’s all prior to the final Resurrection of the Dead, prior to the Final Judgment. I tend to believe that “new Heaven and new Earth” is somewhat literal. Some parts of Revelation 21 do have literal connotations, but how literal can you be about something the intellect cannot grasp?

So while American vernacular English does permit a flexible use of the words “Heaven” and “Hell” — to include symbolism and parable — if you want to shift to a more precise discussion of matters of faith and Scripture, both are apparently outside of this realm of existence, but attached to it in some way that indicates they will be replaced along with the rest of Creation at some point out there in our world’s future.

Do we really need a comprehensive word study of Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, etc.? I’ve already covered the Old Testament teaching on afterlife to show that Jesus wasn’t so much adding new revelation about the afterlife as He was speaking to an audience that had drifted far from their ancient Hebrew roots. You need a heart-led discernment to recognize that some of it was just using the common rabbinical manner of speaking (because folks were familiar with it) even as He corrected false impressions about things. Often He was pushing them back away from Hellenism toward the ancient Hebrew way of thinking. Hebrew language uses words as signposts, not as containers of truth. The whole point was to persuade you to seek God’s truth from God Himself, with the underlying assumption you must have an active heart-mind in order to hear from God in the first place.

I don’t think chasing down precise word meanings in Greek and Hebrew will help you very much because that was never the point. A proper heart-mind operation means that words are indicative, not descriptive. If you could read Greek, you’d know that Paul’s Hebrew mind constantly searched for ways to express those thoughts in Greek so that he was always coining his own Greek words. If you were born speaking Greek in that time, you would tend to resist that Hebraic thought pattern. You would read things back into his writing and struggle to keep up with Paul’s teaching. This is why the Apostles spent so very much time with each of their church plants, because it was downright tough to make a Greek mind shift over to Hebrew patterns of thought.

And now we have English with a whole batch of fresh barriers keeping us from Hebrew thought. A part of me wonders if I’ll ever get that across to enough people before I die. The language you speak is the language you think, and the language can seriously hold you back from thinking the way God designed us to think. All I can do is ask that you learn a cynical suspicion of the person in the mirror, because I’ve had to cultivate that, too. It doesn’t require paranoia, because God is surely at work in you, helping you to move steadily closer to Him. Always be willing to question whether you have actually caught on, and turn inside to your heart and connect with the Holy Spirit for patience and guidance. You don’t have to accept my answers, but maybe you can learn something useful toward your own answers by noticing how I get mine.

A Sacrifice

I have made choices while deeply absorbed into a world of moral folly. Consequently, my choices were foolish, taking place outside the boundaries of my calling and covenant with Christ. Some of them resulted in permanent changes that I never foresaw, stuff I live with to this day, and more coming. A few of those consequences God redeemed by miraculous changes. Those changes came because they serve to enhance the fundamental value of my testimony of God’s glory.

What serves His glory is simply the fulfillment of my reason for living; it is, by definition, in my best interest. To imagine an interest in anything outside His glory is the doorway to Hell.

There is a sense in which Our Father respects our choices, though. Going back to start over and recover the potential of all He offered is not consistent with His glory for reasons that require you understand His divine character. I can’t explain it, and asking the question is a waste of time. So the net result is that I take the calling He offers that excludes a whole lot of blessings I could have had, but will now never know in this life. I placed myself into an alternative sequence of possible and probable events, as the expression goes, and God still has a plan to use me despite my silly choices.

But part of His use for me includes redemption by taking better options along the path into the future. That I am aware of the moral optimum of what might-have-been and should-have-been serves to teach me that I should listen better. Departing Eden didn’t change Creation; it changed our ability to cooperate with Creation. We no longer have that wide open moral instinct to do what’s consistent with reality. We are forced to guess, and if we don’t activate the heart-mind connection, our guesses won’t make a whole lot of difference eternally — all of them will be wrong because the whole thing rests in the wrong place. But with the heart-mind on the throne of moral decision, I can do a lot better.

And my heart reminds me constantly of things I could have had but can’t go back to reclaim. I testify to the verity of that thing even if I can’t claim all of it for myself. This is a tension that we cannot leave behind because it is fundamental to our fallen existence. It’s a part of the time-space constraints that constitute a significant symptom of the Fall. We can’t simply choose to take our awareness and go back in time to restart some process that turned out wrong. I can only strive to recover what’s left. Part of what’s left is my prophetic calling.

Even that requires the moral consideration of things on multiple threads, something foreign to our cultural mythology. Moral choices are not linear and certainly not restricted to one thread of consideration. There are multiple parallel threads that do not necessarily jive with each other in my human reason. There is no single logically clean and perfect choice anywhere. His divine will for me is not that simple; it requires a certain kind of artistry that is far more than artistry. Faith is its own thing, with its own unique kind of virtuosity that we exercise far above any mere mental awareness. Nothing that I, or any other human, or all of us together, could express that moral truth with clarity or depth that a mind can absorb and process.

Net result: My calling and my sense of peace with God requires that I live in an urban environment and do my best to ignore all the problems that causes me personally. My fleshly human desires have become aware of all the sweet goodness of living more naturally without all the pollution, but my heart says that would be selfish against the particular calling on my life at this time. I can’t do what I have to do anywhere else; not now. This is not meant to portray me as some noble, saintly martyr, nor someone seeking a cynical excuse to wallow in urban hedonism. And it serves no moral purpose to blame any number of nameless other folks out there for creating this mess through which I must wade. I take this path knowing that it is not optimal to my human health, and not optimal for helping me stay in close communion with God’s Creation.

So instead of lying naked on the ground next to my natural hut in the wilderness, I go outside and touch the highly hybridized shrub that the landscaping service chops into squarish shapes. I ride my bike along paved (and soon unpaved) routes humans make to touch some wilder bit of nature and try to stay away from power lines and cell towers for just a little time now and then. I go outside for brief moments in today’s rainy weather and just feel Creation as best I can in the middle of one of the largest (area-wise) urban expanses in the US. I live below the official poverty line and consume what the grocery store offers within my limited budget, praying that my appetites can be adjusted to come closer to that Edenic ideal within the range of what they have.

If you can do better for yourself, please do. I’ve developed a form of tolerance that I wish upon no one. It includes having seen things I cannot un-see and hope you never see, because I suffer with the visual memories. Would you like to extract human body parts from the wreckage of a motor vehicle? Did you know that freshly ripped human flesh can stink? Those images did not come from God, but from Satan and his torments. I’m not “tough;” I’d rather not have seen such things. They do not ennoble; they are scars from my folly. They represent a vanity of vanities. Shake your head at the marks of my stupidity and know that I am constrained by them. At the same time, don’t waste any pity on my insignificant life. God chose to use me in spite of my idiocies, so let’s celebrate mercy, not human accomplishments. The power to sacrifice self is glorious; the necessity of having to sacrifice is not.

I sacrifice one kind of peace for another that strikes me, and only me, as a moral imperative. And because of that tension from a thousand threads in the moral fabric of reality, I’m always waiting to see if the balance of things in my faith requires a change in priorities.

Mysticism and Trust Models

In Christian Mysticism, models for trust have no significance.

It’s hard to break a system that doesn’t exist. Our “system” manifests here, but isn’t rooted here. By moving everything of importance into the moral sphere of the heart, human frailties are of no real consequence. You do not have to trust yourself, much less anyone else. Our whole operation places full trust in God, who stands outside all systems. We invest everything in Him and leave the results in His hands. We accept whatever returns to us from Him. There is nothing to lose, so trust is not an issue between us.

Each time I write and post, you are morally obliged to filter that post as if it were a fresh application for your attention. Anyone can spoof my name; a few could spoof my writing. God alone can make you believe it. My investment in time and resources goes straight to God as merely my obedience to Him. You owe me nothing. The discretion to cease paying attention rests within you. My payoff is in the obedience itself, not your response. Your payoff is an affirmation that improves the dominion of your heart over your mind.

And it doesn’t hurt that I regularly warn you to test my words — all the more so when we look at the actual security leaks from similar services. If I don’t own you, I can’t lose you. If you choose to stay linked, you retain full authority to disappear without notice and without fear of retribution in any form.

There would be a stronger emotional link if we met in the flesh. Our online format makes that exceedingly difficult, so that bonding requires a far stronger impetus from God. Yet you remain aware that my involvement is subject to sudden end without notice, for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with my wishes.

All that’s left is the immeasurable changes in each of us, something that represents our trust in God in the first place. It might be emotionally uncomfortable to cut this virtual link between us, but the link itself presumes to teach the strength to get past that.

Whatever requires protection cannot be guarded on our level. We have a hard enough time communicating something that is beyond words in the first place. We are forced to encrypt our discussions in the moral language of parables. Genuine communication requires a moral decryptor built into your soul. People unable to operate on the moral plane could hardly grasp any of it, so we can be wide open about everything. Anyone who can understand can’t possibly threaten us.

Learn this well, because should God ever grant you a fellowship of like souls in meat space, you’ll need the armoring in your soul to prevent the folly that has ruined religion for millions of people in times past.

Keep this “trust model” for religion outside this virtual parish.

Faith of Abraham

The work on revising and updating my Ancient Truth Bible studies continues. Right now I’m revisiting Hebrews from the General Letters. In chapter 11 the writer mentions how Abraham was way past his prime and still had a son. God didn’t choose the most vigorous young man to father the nation to inherit the land. Instead, he chose someone whose heart was ready and used what was wrapped around that heart. Abraham walked a land he did not own as a promise that God would give it to them. Their inheritance was this vast unexplored territory of faith, and the land was just a visual symbol.

I’m seeing a tiny handful of people interact here in that same faith. A few of you communicate with me behind the scenes of the powerful changes God brings because of our shared message of faith. We have all been changed — are still being changed — and this is not the same world where we started. We are still exploring this territory of faith.

Do you suppose it’s possible that in the future some of us will be connected with meat-space manifestations of this virtual parish? Honestly, we should be surprised if various congregations are not started that way. For all my blather about what a fine thing it is God chose us to begin this work in virtual space, we could hardly expect it to stay that way. Don’t wait for me to tell you how it works; we are forging into territory new to all of us. Just start with those whose hearts call them to your side and make it happen. Whatever arises from the fellowship has to be good and right, at least in terms of procedures and such. All I ask is that you try to make it as much as possible like a family household from the Ancient Near East.

Right now, a visitor to our virtual parish might not see much happening. I consider this the calm before the storm. This is the time to survey the lay of the land from the heights of faith. Focus on preparing the moral space in your hearts. I, for one, will move forward as if all my wacko predictions are coming true.

Parabolic Training

A parable is not meant to offer a scientific model. A parable is a characterization of something that is alive on a level beyond what words can describe. So a parable is an invitation to explore something with your heart in hopes that your brain is obedient enough to implement some changes demanded by faith.

There is a very literal sense in which all Creation is alive. You will not be able to walk in the full power of the gospel message until you begin to respect Creation as an associate placed by God to assist you in discovering His glory. A part of you is the same stuff as the rest of Creation, but you cannot possibly gain all the benefits and blessings granted by His glory until you form a covenant relationship with Creation itself. It is alive with the moral character of God and He has endowed it with the power to respond to His glory, including His glory in you.

If I begin to make headway in the mission of making peace with God through making peace with His Creation, I am claiming some measure of my divine heritage. As a child of God, adopted through His literal Son Jesus Christ, there is a synergy on a level beyond words where I accept the things He as created and accept His revelation about those things. I cooperate as a child learning to love and conform to His image for me. I am laying claim to the things He set aside for me to use for His glory.

There is no concrete list of what that includes, but it means I can walk about in Creation and hear His voice in the song that registers on the ears of my soul. I can join in that song and celebrate my Father’s greatness. It also means that I learn what sort of stuff I should pray for and thus see my prayers more likely heard and answered. I am in a position to learn how something so clearly the best route to His glory yesterday is no longer the best I can discern today. I have gained in my capacity to respond and that opens doors that were previously invisible.

So for example, the bicycle I purchased in clear conscience three years ago is now not the best thing for my calling, so I begin to pray for a different bicycle. If you don’t see what I see, then you could decide it looks to you like boredom with old toys. That doesn’t hinder my prayer and my faith to believe. It’s not as if I’m seeking the highest priced carbon fiber racing bike, just something that fits into a different pattern of riding (though it will probably be more expensive than what I have now), a pattern that has to change because everything is alive and growing in my soul. Meanwhile, I keep plugging along because I learned long ago that my sense of timing is tied to my fallen flesh, and God’s sense of timing is incomprehensible at best, and certainly different from mine.

So it goes with a lot of things in my life. When I began to pray about getting a tower and some better networking hardware, that stuff happened way faster than I expected. And recently there were some changes in my perception about what made that hardware important for His mission in my life. Then again, some things I sincerely longed for a couple of years ago now horrify me. But if the prayer for those things presumed that it was not so important in itself, but simply the best I knew at the time, then my underlying request of God was for a better understanding.

Cycling has remained important in my calling since before I knew I was called. Somehow I sense that won’t change until I am simply unable to do it, but I consider it something I could drop without whining. I loved running far more, and whined about losing it, but I can tell you it’s gone forever — in this body, at least. I can tell that it still feels like a really big hole in my soul that I can’t run any more. Not everything I long for is what God has in mind, but there is no sense of condemnation about it either way. A major element in my sense of peace is realizing that some things simply defy my grasp this side of Eternity.

My dominion from His hand is limited. But that dominion itself is a living thing. I have to tend it like a valuable steed, because the underlying truth is that it is a living thread of the covenant with my Lord. And as you probably realize by now, that divine calling includes trying to help you, dear reader, to find your own heritage from the Father.

Sometimes the things I offer require that you submit in some measure to my dominion. That’s not my rules; that’s the fundamental nature of things. I can’t extend His authority in me beyond the boundaries of the feudal assignment He grants. By the same token, pulling you into my domain requires I surrender some of my prerogatives. You become a burden of care and I bear a major responsibility to Him for that. In other words, we embrace a covenant of shared dominion. But in the end, I’ll be far richer for it, so I do it gladly. I can only assume you’ll be richer, too. His glory shines brighter because it feeds on such things.

His glory is a living thing, too. It’s blasphemy on some level to act as if any part of our world is inert, or that it reacts only on a mechanical level. Faith literally changes your wiring so that your body works differently. When you focus your conscious awareness on living from the heart, it opens a wealth of living power to change your very literal existence.

While you might be tempted at first to anthropomorphize the stuff in your life, that’s a perversion of the real deal. You can’t fuss at your shoes as if they were impetuous children. Try to keep in mind that the world around you isn’t fallen; you are. Still, it’s no mistake to imagine that your shoes are alive on some level simply because all matter is. However, you are far more likely to experience fellowship and communion of worship with stuff that is more obviously alive and not made by human hands. Parables help to train your brain to cooperate with your heart.